Reasoning Together – Prophets

December 31, 2013 | 22 comments
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Sacred GroveHere’s the main point: I don’t think either our history or our theology supports traditional and currently widespread – though often unarticulated – notions of what a prophet is.[1] 

This is a complicated matter, and I don’t mean to trivialize others’ thoughts or speak condescendingly. But when discussing the nature of prophets with other Mormons, I’m too often led to say (or just think), “You realize that the prophets don’t believe in your kind of prophet, right?” Some mistake our prophets and the sacred office they fill for unearthly, quasi-divine, almost omniscient, formerly human-but-now-heavenly emissaries – persons who spend so much time going back and forth between the throne of God and the Church Office building as to have built up some serious frequent flyer miles.

Answering the question of just what a prophet in the Mormon sense is won’t get a definitive answer here (or anywhere). But what we take a prophet to be is critical to most of the contentious maelstrom swirling around both the bloggernacle and our various ward dinner tables today. It cuts to the heart of one’s experience of Mormonism. In offering my thoughts on Mormon prophets, I’m also offering my experience. But given the sheer weight and importance of the question, this and the subsequent posts are also meant to stand as a kind of argument in favor of these notions.

Ironically, the “infallibly informed prophet” is regularly endorsed by certain groups of Mormons who leave the Church and certain groups who take themselves to be the guardians of orthodoxy.[2] This notion is prominent in the debates currently raging. For example, certain of those who feel faithfully content with the scandalous inequality faced by women in the Church and certain of those who leave our religious family over this issue anchor their decisions in a belief in infallible, wholly informed, perfectly prescient prophets. For them, prophets wake up each morning to a fresh stack of memos and talking points compiled by angels while they slept. The faithful are scandalized by those calling for equality, since the empirical fact of inequality is itself evidence that God intends that inequality, that there must be  something that actual promotes of our temporal and eternal welfare in this inequality, since if this were not the case, then the prophets would long ago have received and acted on a celestial memo to change things. Those who choose to leave are sometimes scandalized by anyone who could call our current leadership prophets, seers, and revelators, since it’s obvious that were they such, they would long ago have received a celestial memo and acted to end inequality.

One anecdote for this shared confusion is to simply ponder the striking fact that our prophets themselves can’t believe in infallibly informed prophets – they live inside their own skin – and yet consider themselves to nonetheless be prophets. Infallabilism is a luxury that only those far removed from prophets can entertain. Being removed from leaders is perhaps naturally dehumanizing – hence US presidents are seen as demons or angels (but not humans) depending on which partisan one talks to, and the analogy applies to presidents of the Church. Our current prophets, however, in addition to being intimately associated with one another, were all alive and associated with their predecessors – the ones who espoused as doctrine various things that today’s leadership eschews as incorrect.

I think what’s needed is a restoration of the Restoration notion of prophets.[3] That is, we already have an adequate answer to this dilemma, it’s just that many of us have apostatized from it. I don’t want to dwell extensively on the point, but we’ve canonized declarations of God concerning the fallibility, foolishness, wickedness, unbelief and “darkened minds in times past” of our Church authorities.[4] This of course doesn’t mean that we’re stuck with failed prophets, any more than Moses’s being a murderer or Jonah’s false prophecies make them failed prophets.

Our prophets are normal humans, with normal social prejudices and widely varying grasps on scripture, history, and doctrine. This in no way detracts from their legitimate standing in the office or their actually holding the keys and authority of that office – a divinely appointed role as oracle when and how God deems fit to give the entire Church further light and knowledge. (Note: in the scriptures and our own history such light and knowledge comes for various reasons, including: God wants to give it, the prophets seek after it, or the people seek after it. Likewise, it’s important to note that as individuals not only are we not limited to the light and knowledge which God grants to the whole Church, but neither ought we to be content with it.)

Jeremiah had all kinds of prejudices, was flatly wrong about the revelatory significance of dreams, and appears to have misunderstood important doctrines concerning the nature of temple rituals and our having Divine Parents. This doesn’t change the fact that he was called by God (from the womb) and given prophetic authority to delivery God’s message to the people at that time – a message significant enough to be canonized for the rest of history.[5]

And if ever there was an egregiously, explicitly racist prophet, it’s Enos.[6] That he prayed for God to save those he denounces as bloodthirsty barbarians doesn’t much change this fact. Nevertheless, his racism certainly doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have had the theophany he describes when the prophetic office fell to him, nor does that racism much detract from the profound inspiration that millions of us have received from his scriptural account. Enos was in every sense I’m familiar with a genuine prophet. And a racist one.

I find it incredibly helpful to look comparatively at the Lehite dispensation in the Book of Mormon.[7] Here we get a thousand years of history with an unbroken line of prophetic transmission[8] reduced to a small handful of major addresses, visions, letters, first-personal reflections, and the like. Look at the first four hundred years of that history. Things start off with a revelatory bang and very quickly dwindle to a low murmur that is little more than an endorsement of the foundations and purpose of the dispensation, together with a faithful insistence on literal prophetic transmissions.

How do we account for this? Do we deny that there was in fact a literal transmission of prophetic authority and divine purpose (note that multiple prophets later in the Book of Mormon insist on this transmission)?[9] Do we decide that, contrary to the small glimpse we get, the prophets between Enos and Benjamin were really just as revelatory and dispensationally important as those who came before and after, but for some reason were just skipped over? I don’t find these sorts of solutions either true to the text or very satisfying. I’m much more comfortable believing that Book of Mormon prophets were both the humans they describe themselves to be and variable with regard to the overall profundity of their prophetic tenure. Nevertheless they all played the key role of transmitter and fulfiller of dispensational purpose that they claim, and the religious history of the Book of Mormon (taken at face value) manifests this fact.

I don’t find the beginning of our dispensation any less spiritually dramatic than that of the Book of Mormon (perhaps the opposite). I genuinely believe that this dispensation’s spiritual climax(es) are yet to come and will likewise be no less dramatic than those recorded on plates of gold. I also don’t find it terribly hard to be edified and fortified in my faith listening twice a year to what usually amounts to mere testimonial endorsements of the foundations and purpose of our own dispensation, mere faithful insistences concerning literal prophetic transmission, together with a host of more and less cultural interpolations. This is particularly true since I frequently find my ears graced to hear words worthy of canonization.[10]

Again, consider the first five hundred years – fully half! – of Lehite history. We get roughly two hundred modern pages. Were I given a similar commission as Mormon and allowed a corresponding one hundred pages to write the theologically juiciest bits of our own history and doctrine, the challenge would certainly be how to choose “even an hundredth part” of our dispensational riches.

In other words, if we simply take the Book of Mormon at face value (whether or not we believe in it) and use it as a guide against which to measure the prophets of our own day, and particularly of the latter end of our Latter-days, then our prophets come off remarkably well.[11]

If one tries to judge Joseph or Brigham or Thomas – or any prophet - by a criterion that makes prophets out to be infallibly informed and morally perfect, then of course they fail. On the other hand, if we determine that prophets are merely men who happen to lead a merely human institution, one is of course likely to be dismissive and perhaps embarrassed or disconcerted by faithful members’ respect for prophets – and this is true of any dispensation, not just our own.

If, however, we use our own Mormon standard (paradigmatically, the one we find in all of our Latter-day scriptures) and not the world’s mythical standard (I’m tempted to write caricature), then there’s nothing in our recent prophets’ prejudices, actions, and testimonies that demands us to recognize them as something other than what they claim: oracles of God with the legitimate keys to preside over our people and its main institution in these Latter-days.

Importantly, the implication is that we neither elide individual or collective faults, nor deny the reality of divine engagement in the unfolding of our particular covenant.

* * * *

[1] There are three things that are worth noting if I’m right (or three things I want to point out): First, Mormonism has something substantive to contribute (at least by way of support). Second, there are exciting implications with regard to how living prophets influence religious experience. Third, we get ourselves – collectively and individually – into a real bind when we adopt other notions of what a prophet is. I’m largely going to leave these points up to your imagination (and perhaps future posts) and instead try and say something about how we ought to understand prophets.

[2] It’s also prominent in many circles outside of Mormonism – amongst both believers and atheists. This is part of why I think what Mormonism offers is so significant.

[3] I talked about this idea here in my review of the recent Pratt biography.

[4] The D&C is rife with such passages. Sections 3, 9, 10, 84 and 93 are all prime examples.

[5] I’m using Jeremiah not because he’s the most prominent example of a scriptural prophet with faults, but because his writings are among my favorite.

[6] Enos 1:20 is almost comic in its description.

[7] We can likewise think of the Jaredites here, though their dispensation and religious practice – and particularly the role of prophets in that dispensation – seem rather significantly different than either the Lehites or the Latter-days.

[8] The unbrokenness of this line is certainly debatable, but I don’t think anything terribly important hangs on this point.

[9] To be completely clear, most of the emphasis is on the direct transmission of the records, but also on the transmission of the “sacred things.” Prophets throughout the BofM are concerned with their authority, their genealogical credentials, and the line by which things were passed down. My reading is that two primary dispensational purposes among the Lehites is the keeping of God’s covenant as a branch of Israel in the new promised land, and the creation and transmission of their records.

[10] Let me emphasize and explain this point. I can’t remember a General Conference where I paid my spiritual preparation  dues and wasn’t rewarded with hearing the tongue of angels in at least one of the talks. I think it is the same for most of us. This doesn’t change the fact that any given General Conference is, by and large, a testimony meeting with lots of cultural interpolations. Reading the Journal of Discourses together with recent Conference Reports makes this abundantly clear. This makes General Conference a paradigmatic example of what I’m trying to get across. Those with infallibly-informed-prophet syndrome tend to either deify or ridicule General Conference. If one takes on board the notion of prophets that I’m urging here, then on a microscopic level the typical General Conference isn’t much to rave about. From a dispensational perspective, however, both the overall practice and the greatest hits list of General Conference certainly is.

[11] I personally don’t think this is because our own leaders are comparatively moral giants – I suspect a lot of it has to do with our context. That is, my own thoughts and prejudices tell me that our racist, chauvinistic, heterosexist, speciesist, violent society has nevertheless opened up a remarkable space for tolerance, charity, and rational discourse that is itself comparatively remarkable and largely missing from the societies out of which our ancient scriptures spring.

22 Responses to Reasoning Together – Prophets

  1. Bryan in VA on December 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Enos a racist prophet? Really?!?! If my BofM memory holds, Enos is the nephew of Nephi, Sam, Laman, and Lemuel. Each of these gentlemen married daughters of Ishmael. That make them all of the same genetic makeup and of the same race. It seems that there’s more to racism that just calling your cousins “barbaric” when they’re continually attempting to destroy you. Those sentences seem to be applying improperly today’s left-leaning sentiments to Enos’ situation.

  2. Sarah Familia on December 31, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    “Ironically, the “infallibly informed prophet” is regularly endorsed by certain groups of Mormons who leave the Church and certain groups who take themselves to be the guardians of orthodoxy.”

    This reminds me of the raging debate about evolution, in which the contention that science and religion are utterly incompatible is advanced with equal vehemence by athiests and young earth creationists.

  3. Scott Roskelley on December 31, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Brigham Young gave a talk to the SLC 3rd ward, on June 23, 1874 where he said that , Latter day saints, should “live so that you will know whether I teach you truth or not. Suppose you are careless and unconcerned, and give way to the spirit of the world, and I am led, likewise, to preach the things of this world [racial discrimination] and to accept things that are not of God, [blacks are the seed of Cain], how easy it would be for me to lead you astray!”

    So for over 100 years it was not the fault of the human, fallible prophets that black families could not be sealed together, or bless their sick children, or receive the ordinances of salvation – it was the fault of the careless and unconcerned members of the church.

  4. EFF on December 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Scott, I like that Brigham Young quote a lot. Does it appear in the Journal of Discourses?

  5. EFF on December 31, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    I have managed to reconcile the divine calling of our leaders with their fallibility by focusing on what I believe are the two principal reasons most of them were called to the offices they hold: (1) they have lived exemplarily lives, and (2) they have rendered constant, loving service to their fellow man.

    Starting from this premise, when a general authority instructs us on moral integrity and living in harmony with Christ’s teachings, I listen closely. Similarly, when they offer suggestions on how we can and should render service to others, I sit up and take notice. But when they speak on questions of science, politics, economics, psychology, and sociology I am much less likely to defer to their opinions since I believe these are matters largely beyond their stewardship and their competence. I am also not inclined to accept overly definitive scriptural interpretations and unequivocal doctrinal pronouncements since so many of those, like opinions on more secular issues such as evolution, have ben discredited.

  6. whizzbang on December 31, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    @4-yes, that comes from the JOD 18:248

  7. Steve Smith on December 31, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    James, you’re begging the question. If prophets are indeed so fallible and merely men with lots of flaws biases and weaknesses, why follow them at all? Why not just rely completely on reason to inform ourselves of right and wrong and truth and falsehood? If you are to follow people who claim to be, or who are claimed to be, prophets and accept them as authorities on matters divine, then there has to be some set of statements uttered by these prophets that you would believe to be beyond question and therefore infallible, even if they have said other things which are demonstrably wrong or engaged in actions which are arguably immoral.

  8. jonathan on December 31, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    EFF,

    Your assertion about exemplary lives and constant loving service to their fellowman as the two principal reasons for their being called is absurd.

    I know many of them intimately. Their lives and service are no more righteous, and in most cases outdone by your own home or visiting teacher scrambling to make a visit before the end of the month.

    The reasons for their calling is managerial acumen, relationships with those in power and a willingness to be unquestioning “company men.”

    See how many times they talk about loyalty to a hierarchy and then tell me how many times the word loyalty appears in the scriptures, oh, it doesn’t.

    There has never been an unbroken succession of prophets in human history. Rather, we have remarkable prophets who indeed pierce the pavilion of heaven; Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Elijah Joseph to name a few.

    In between, we have various embodiments of Caiaphas that sit in Moses’ seat but wander around the spiritual wilderness of unrighteous dominion implementing, or allowing to continue such “prophetic revelations as continued abstinence from shell fish, to spiritually assaulting black families to uttering thus sayeth the Lord: “Let’s go shopping.”

  9. James Olsen on December 31, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Bryan- by the time Enos became the prophet (at least two full generations from the time they reached the promised land, probably longer), the infamous curse (intermarriage with other peoples seems the most likely variable) was firmly in place. Regardless, the sort of wholesale categorization and denouncement of another people based on culture that differs significantly from one’s own counts as racism – at least as that term’s commonly used. Miscegenation and strong cultural exogamy are close enough kissing cousins that I’m not sure how to shave racism out (again, at least as it’s commonly used) out of either. Let’s say, however, that there’s a better “ism” term for Enos’s attitude. If so, it’s just as bad, and nothing hangs on that point. If what you mean is that it’s only today where we get widespread moral condemnation of such attitudes, then I suppose you’re right – I’m applying today’s standards. You’re insinuation, however, that those whose politics are conservative don’t care about racism or other forms of condemning others based merely on social categories is probably as offensive as it is off-base.

    Scott – nice quote.

    EFF – I’m inclined to agree with both of your principles, at least with regard to this dispensation (can’t say the same for other ones – Ezra is anything but exemplary and loving). And one of the critical roles that I think our prophets play is to check our personal and collective values and dispositions – so yes, I certainly agree that we ought to sit up and listen carefully when they speak on such issues.

    Steve – I hope I’m not begging the question, though I might well have raised the one you mention. It’s one that a later post will address directly, but I’ll say a few things here. First, let’s be clear about “merely men.” They’re merely men in the sense that they’re only human, they live in the same mortal world with the same mortal bodies, emotions, minds, and dispositions as the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, however, they’ve been called to a sacred office and given keys and a literal stewardship that the rest of us haven’t. Next, in a hypothetical world where such an office (prophethood) didn’t exist, I hope that we wouldn’t rely merely on reason – though reason’s certainly a critical part of morality. There is no prophets vs. reason game of exclusivity. Finally, I’m on board with your last sentence, though the world “infallible” still makes me squirm a little.

  10. SilverRain on December 31, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    You don’t have to believe they are infallible to nonetheless believe they have a better perspective than you….are “watchmen on the tower.”

    You don’t blindly obey, but if you disregard their warning, you had better have a very good reason.

    To me, this is a bit of a straw man. Very few people unquestionably do exactly everything the prophets say. The actual difference is one of default obedience with rare contrary revelation vs. default skepticism with rarely following in faith.

    But an awful lot of people seem to be expending an awful lot of energy on this straw man of late.

  11. KMB on December 31, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Scripturally, I agree that the text of the Book of Mormon (and Church history in general) supports this nuanced view of prophets. It would be nice if this idea got more traction among the membership at large.

    However, the disconnect comes when the official lesson materials from Church HQ don’t support this idea.

    The 2013 Sunday School manual we just completed (Lesson 37) contains:

    * emphasis on D&C 1:38 (“whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same”), and D&C 21:4-6 (“For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith”)

    * quote from Harold B. Lee: “The only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized [see D&C 21:4–5]. … There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you’”

    * quote from Ezra Taft Benson: “The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one who is living in our day and age…the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece”

    * contains the following statements:

    “The prophet will never lead us astray”,
    “we are led by the word of God given through His prophet”
    “we can have complete confidence that the prophet appointed by God will always lead us correctly.”

    No mention of anything related to ‘fallibility’ or ‘speaking as a man’. No quotes from J.Smith/B.Young or others about using our own judgment and guidance from the Holy Ghost when receiving teachings of the prophets.

    Basically, no direct connection to anything expressed in this post. While it’s arguably not *directly* contradictory, someone reading the lesson manual and reading this post separately makes it seem like two completely unrelated topics.

    I like the observation that we should be using our “Mormon standard” from the scriptures, not the “mythical standard” or caricature from the world, but the fact remains: the Church directly teaches this “mythical standard” in all its lessons.

    It’s no mystery why Church critics constantly use this ‘unrealistic’ standard to club the heads of faithful members — it’s a club happily given to them by Church leaders and Church curriculum. It should also be no mystery why many faithful members maintain and support the ‘practical infallibility’ myth, while still joking about “Mormon prophets are fallible but no one believes it (chuckle) (chuckle)”

    Unless the official rhetoric from HQ changes, we’re left with the irony that a person who never attends church meetings but relies only on the scriptures may end up with a more correct view of “prophets” than a person who attends church meetings every week. That can’t be what we want, can it?

  12. Old Man on January 1, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Paragraph two reveals quite the straw-man. Just how many adults in the church really view prophets in the way portrayed? I live in a very conservative ward, and I can only identify a few and those are converts or reactivated members with limited time in the church.

  13. Old Man on January 1, 2014 at 2:04 am

    “In offering my thoughts on Mormon prophets, I’m also offering my experience.”

    What exactly is that experience? How many prophets and apostles have you personally known and/or worked with? Are you a backseat driver? ;-)

    Do you really believe that modern perspectives are inherently more moral? It seems that many of the ideas you hold are products of this age, and only make sense under current temporary conditions.

    Differences in gender roles within the church has you frothing at the mouth. I see an issue or two on that subject myself. But until I’ve received a revelation, I’ve found that I’m generally wrong. And the only revelation I’ve had lately is that most of the activists on that issue speak with little inspiration and are out of touch with what God wants. So I will keep waiting on those flawed men.

  14. Riley on January 1, 2014 at 4:50 am

    I guess I don’t see much blind obedience in Fruit Heights, Utah, to get my garments in a twist, at least when it comes to following commandments, council, or plain ol’ ecclesiastical recommendations. I would wager most members still don’t have at least a year supply of food stored, read their scriptures regularly, pray morning and night, or go home/visit teaching every month. Hell, I bet some even still watch those rated R movies. Quite the opposite of blind obedience (perhaps blind neglect?).

    Where I do see “blind” acceptance is with doctrinal matters.

    To me it seems that being a certain way would be more important than believing a certain way. Just tonight we had dinner with my cousin who blindly follows D&C 89 as it was written rather than currently interpreted and therefore takes liberty to drink wine and beer. I blindly follow the older Israelite dietary laws so naturally I turned tasting his shrimp pilaf when he offered.

  15. Riley on January 1, 2014 at 4:52 am

    *turned down

  16. European Saint on January 1, 2014 at 6:05 am

    “Unlike the rest of us, however, they’ve been called to a sacred office and given keys and a literal stewardship that the rest of us haven’t.” This. Yes. Thank you, James. Sometimes I get the feeling while reading online that, for many in the Mormon blogosphere, the last General Conference never happened (or the one before that, or the one before that…). I am deeply grateful to have leaders who are divinely inspired.

  17. James Olsen on January 1, 2014 at 11:39 am

    KMB – thank you for taking the time to assemble that list of quotes. Presenting only this list in a single lesson, outside of the greater context of history and scripture, and especially when these quotes get applied directly to conspicuous contemporary (often political) topics of today, this can help to reinforce (what I claim is) an ultimately a self-undermining view of prophets. As is clear, I come across this notion of prophets (and these kinds of applications) frequently. But even in wards with a very strong culture of infallibilism, all of us still have to confront the difficulties of history and the very long waits to hear the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem.

    I agree that the Church is itself accountable – tacitly allowing unhelpful notions to flourish if nothing else. I think all of us are. I’m far less interesting in liability and assigning blame, however, then I am in a forward looking responsibility. I’m quite confident that any of us could teach Lesson 37 as written without class members walking away with a reinforced notion of caricature prophets. Perhaps more importantly, if you and I participate actively and faithfully in our ward discussions (in GD and elsewhere), then we can do a great deal to keep mythical notions from being perpetuated. The real trick, of course, is to do so (genuinely) without arrogance and condescending attitudes.

    Old Man – Thanks for joining the discussion. I’ll admit, I was going for rhetorical flair in the second paragraph. Noting my first sentence (the one with the neon banner introducing it) and the overall context, my point is that this notion of prophethood is often unarticulated – it’s part of the vague background that informs the way we both think and talk and act with regard to our prophets.

    I’ve lived and actively participated in nine wards in the last ten years, wards in Utah, on the east and west coasts, and two wards overseas. There certainly been significant variation in the cultures (political and otherwise) of the wards I’ve been in. However, the (again often implicit) convictions that I describe above are alive and well in each – amongst members of all different stripes. My concern is how these convictions inform our reactions to contemporary issues. Like inequality.

    By “experience” I’m referring to my overall spiritual experiences, experiences reading, cherishing, and attempting to apply the words of prophets ancient and modern, and my experience negotiating with others who are likewise trying to negotiate the difficult waters of living a faithful life today. Throughout my life, and particularly over the past 15 years or so, the words of the prophets and the historical context of their lives have been an issue of daily study and thought. That’s the experience I’m talking about. I’ve not had a great deal of face time with our General Authorities (outside of GC), but that which I’ve had squares well with the view I espouse.

    I think we’ve lost some really important things today – especially with regard to community. But yes, on a global level, there is no period in history that manifests anything like the humanitarian concern and the push to overcome the more egregious moral violations than we see today. These moral concerns, while not universal, are certainly in the ascendancy. No prophet today could speak or have as casual an attitude toward slavery as a Paul or a Jeremiah. That’s the sort of thing I was pointing to.

    As to the issue of women in the Church, I can always hope that you’ll do more than merely wait. God’s not got a great record of bestowing further light and knowledge on those who are perfectly content with present injustice – and this is true for us collectively as a people.

    Riley – I’m onboard with the orthopraxism. Again, my main concern is the way that background and unarticulated assumptions about prophets that impacts how we as a people act (and argue – but I consider the words important actions too).

    European Saint – You’re welcome. And I mean those words quite genuinely. The nature of the comment discussion so far has leaned toward interpreting my comments as dismissing or trivializing our prophets. I certainly don’t want to do that. The words of our modern prophets have shaped my life and religious experience and done so in incredibly important and meaningful ways. I’m grateful for their faith and sacrifice, grateful for the offices of prophet, seers, and revelators that we have today, and for the ways these have blessed my life.

  18. Old Man on January 1, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Hi again,

    I am curious by what you would define as “inequity” in your last post. If equality means identical (ordain both genders to the priesthood, no gender differences whatsoever) as the more radical feminists desire, I am afraid I can’t back that.

    I want a better experience at church for our sisters. I have really enjoyed the sisters’ voices in Ward Council. I think they should conduct some meetings. But I really perceive different, yet complimentary, roles and responsibilities in our spiritual lives. I don’t believe that celebrating the sisters’ responsibilities would be enhanced by ordination. I believe that is reflected in the temple ordinances. I like husband/wife teams as teachers, even in home teaching. We had a husband-wife team when our children were young, and the kids loved them. It was like another set of grandparents. My wife is the greatest force for good in helping the widows we home teach together.

  19. Howard on January 1, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    We are repeatedly warned in the scriptures that declaring more or less than what we are given is not of Him! Yet official (out of context) exaggeration like the (intended?) implications and indoctrination of the sum of lesson materials mentioned in #11 above and lying for the Lord apologetics typically receive nod and wink support by the the so called faithful. This is Mormonism’s hazy dishonesty and it is psychologically dysfunctional. It is a common undercurrent within the faith that encourages and teaches a subtle level of lying and as a result hypocrisy. I appreciate dialog like this because it helps put the roles and practice of the brethren into better perspective.

    The lesson material has been carefully crafted. Intent must be assumed. But intent by whom, the brethren themselves? A well meaning but pharisaical and flattering correlation dept? In any case the brethren have not taken steps to correct it or the members over inflated sense of their often celebrity status. Apparently they do not disapprove! Something is clearly amiss here.

  20. Dq on January 2, 2014 at 12:58 am

    Seeing as how this debate is mostly relevant to the extent that you have some disagreements with what is said and taught now, I’m interested to hear about what specifically from conference you feel the Spirit telling you is wrong.

    If you can provide a few instances, I’d also like you to still make your stance agree with statements in the D&C to receive the Lord’s servants, or from mine own mouth it is the same, etc. I’m not saying we can’t have differently informed conclusions. But I’m pretty certain “receiving” the Holy Ghost doesn’t mean writing blog posts contrary to it, just like receiving the Lord’s servants would seem to entail not writing blog posts contrary to their teachings. There are always exceptions of course, which is why the specifics would matter. Got any?

  21. Xenophon on January 3, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Very clever. Moses was a murderer. Jonah gave false prophecies. Jeremiah was prejudiced. Enos was a racist… But why not carry this thesis to it’s logical conclusion? Adam was sexist. Enoch was an unrepentant Zionist. Noah was a creationist. Moses was legislating morality. Abraham was homophobic, and much too patriarchal. Joseph in Egypt? A baker-hater. Isaiah… should have been sawn asunder earlier for daring to prophecy against Persians or Palestinians. John the Baptist harmed locusts and the environment. Jesus was too condescending. Don’t even get me started with the other Old Testament and Book of Mormon prophets, who were all, in one way or another, basically anti-intellectuals. Lehi and Nephi… can anyone say imperial colonialists? (for this reason the enlightened followers of Ammon were justified in becoming anti-nephi-lehites). Fortunately, there was an apostasy. But then there was this Joseph fellow, a chauvinist polygamist, whose successor, Brigham (probably by reading the book of Enos too much) became the fountainhead of all subsequent racism. And then there was Benson… oh my. Benson had the flaws of all the prophets combined, except for Packer. Hinckley and Monson have been relatively mild compared to prior prophets, but watch out for Oaks. Luckily, there is now a cure for “infallibly-informed-prophet syndrome”: ingest one bloggernacle capsule daily.

  22. Robert C. on January 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks for an excellent post, James.